May 12, 2020

{Wonder Woman}

Here's another bit from my ongoing and long-in-the-making book...tentatively titled The Spiritual Mission of a PrincessEnjoy!

Fear and Loathing of Women 
{Part Two:} 

In her 1998 essay in When a Princess Dies, analytical psychologist and Amazon scholar Elizabeth Gordon wrote that as she watched “that lonely gun carriage carry Princess Diana’s coffin through the silent streets of London,” she was reminded of Penthesilea, the legendary Amazon queen. This warrior queen, whose name means “making men to mourn,” was “so fierce and dangerous on the battlefield that only Achilles, the greatest soldier of them all, could overcome her.” Yet the tale goes that mighty Achilles, broken hearted and full of remorse at Penthesilea’s death (because he, like others before him, fell victim to the Amazon’s charms) honored his slain adversary with “a funeral fit for a queen.” Gordon considered that “Diana, too, had become in her death the fallen heroine, mourned by friend and foe alike.”

In Gordon's study of the Amazon archetype, she believes the Amazons were a source of inspiration for the women’s movement of the twentieth century, “particularly in the way in which the fighting spirit of the feminine has been constellated” and that Diana, in the last years of her life, “clearly demonstrated something of this spirit”—as groups and clusters of supporters formed around her. Gordon drew attention to the “loose cannon” aspect of how both Penthesilia, taking on the power of ancient Greece (or so goes the legend), and Diana, taking on the power grid of the British monarchy, fought the establishment. First, in the BBC Panorama interview where Diana “vowed publicly that she ‘would not go quietly’” and again when she joined the effort against the deployment of land mines with her famous promenade dangereuse in Angola. “In intervening here she was, of course, also entering into a political minefield,” explained Gordon. “She was challenging, as a woman and on feeling terms, the very masculine power complex of the international armaments industry.”

Like the Amazons of Greek mythology, Diana also thought herself an “outsider.” Was this why “she had such tremendous sympathy for the marginal and the marginalized—all those whom her brother so movingly described as ‘her constituency of the rejected’”? The type of royalty and power the Amazons and Princess Diana claimed was “of a different, ‘upside down’ and ultimately subversive kind.” Diana, as Gordon stated, said her “authority came not from the established order but from the feelings people had for her, from her position as queen of peoples’ hearts.” By this time, the powers-that-be had learned never to discount the influence of this “loose cannon.” (Similar to the Amazons, it was this trait that made Diana “dangerous.”)

Olympe de Gouges
Elizabeth Gordon questioned whether Diana stirred up the “same fear and unease” that caused patriarchal unrest in earlier situations. Like when sixteenth-century Protestant theologian John Knox denounced the “monstrous regiment of women”—referring to the two female monarchs of the day (Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth of England), contending that rule by females was contrary to the Bible. Or during the height of the French Revolution, when what were called “Amazon bands” of women protesting in the streets were ordered back to their homes (women were considered “passive citizens” beholden to men); then their leaders, including playwright Olympe de Gouges who wrote the famous “Declaration of the Rights of Women,” were sent to the guillotine. Or the backlash in 1990s America against what was called “bitch power” when several women were advisers to the President of the United States, Bill Clinton: his wife, an outspoken First Lady; the first woman appointed as Secretary of the Air Force; and two strong-willed female cabinet appointees—the Secretary of State and Attorney General. Making the patriarchal forces even crankier, a second woman had been nominated and seated on the Supreme Court. (And a couple years before this, Anita Hill testified about a male nominee who had sexually harassed her in the workplace—there were other women who were not allowed to testify—but he still won his seat on the highest court in the land.) Uppity women were getting in the way of men’s power and privilege!

Is it that the “fear and unease” created when women came/come into power “suggest something unpredictable and unknown”? In the world of Princess Diana “no one knew what she might do next,” shared Gordon. “And no one knew the power of those whose causes she espoused.” Is the narrow-minded fear and loathing of powerful women just as much about women shaking up the seat of power and man’s place in it as it is about fear of “the other”? “We do not know how to cope with those whom we reject,” Elizabeth Gordon continued, “the shadow elements at whom we dare not look too closely.” The “making men to mourn” funerals of both the beautiful Amazon warrior Penthesilia and Princess Diana—ceremonies fit for queens—forced their opponents to look closely until they not only saw their own shadow side, but the light of their own humanity.

The death of both women awakened something in the world—yet the degree of light ignited by such a spark depended on what we did next. How courageous could we dare be? It would take courage to keep living in that open-hearted vulnerability many experienced at Diana’s death.

We could now see that Diana’s life example “may have been inspiring and at the same time both uncomfortable and conscience provoking,” Gordon remarked in 1998. “At the very least it changed, perhaps forever, the way that many of us now feel about so-called charity work”—Diana reached out to touch, embrace and make direct eye contact with those many didn’t want to see. Almost a thousand years before, Saint Francis of Assisi said: “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.”

As a woman passionate about her study of the Amazons, author Elizabeth Gordon revealed that in the image of Princess Diana “something of the Amazon archetype stirred us to consciousness, the harbinger of change and of a new value system.” It is within this new awakening consciousness we are living today.
After the Amazons marched in victory with Dionysus, they were nearly annihilated (not in battle, but by Dionysus’ own men when the women “demanded their share in the spoils of battle”), the story of the Amazons takes a different turn. The story goes that those who survived Dionysus’ bloody fury took refuge at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. (Goddess Artemis to the Greeks, Diana to the Romans.) Gordon tells of their transformation after a wild, exhaustive holy rite of a “war-dance” circled around the image of the goddess. “It enabled them to turn their swords into ploughshares, to sacrifice their power in service of the sacred”—and they never fought another war.

“Transformation is a word that has been used also about Diana,” Elizabeth Gordon wrote, seeing Diana transform her personal suffering into devoted service to others—and bringing those “loose cannon energies” of the Amazon to rest, “channeled into some kind of service to the sacred.” When human beings wake into a higher consciousness, do they naturally put down their swords and pick up “ploughshares”—tools of a peaceful society?

In her mythical art exhibition of The Dinner Party, created in the 1970s, feminist artist Judy Chicago depicted a symbolic Amazon representing the “mother cults” rather than a particular woman (although the names of many warrior queens were known, mostly through stories from the ancient Greeks.) Not unlike Mary Beard and other historians, Judy Chicago questions this history and the “evidence of warrior queendoms.” Perhaps “matriarchal societies fought in battles only when their power was being challenged in a vain effort to turn the tide.” Perhaps it’s all part of the patriarchy’s long attempt at controlling the narrative, therefore controlling women, and pitching women as “the other”—along with any group they considered inferior to them.

This isn’t to say that there were no women trained as warriors throughout history. We have proof of “nomadic women who trained, hunted and battled alongside their male counterparts on the Eurasian steppes,” reported Derek Hawkins for the Washington Post in late 2019. “In a landmark discovery, archeologists unearthed the remains of four female warriors buried with a cache of arrowheads, spears and horseback-riding equipment in a tomb in western Russia—right where Ancient Greek stories placed the Amazons.” There have been other excavations, but this was magnificent for its detail. The burial site is dated some 2500 years ago; the women were identified as Scythian nomads; one in her early teens, two in their 20s, and one aged 40 to 50—she was “found wearing a golden ceremonial headdress, a calathus, engraved with floral ornaments—an indication of stature.” Hawkins cited Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World, who felt that the find not only proved they existed, but “‘the lives of those women warriors really did influence the Ancient Greek ideas and visions of what they said about the Amazons.’”

Real, imagined, mythological—whatever the truth of the Amazons and warrior queens, there is a “wonder woman” spirit brewing in the world today. ~